“I read nonfiction (exclusively) because I want to learn something.”
It’s a troubling sentiment I’ve heard often enough. It goes along with “fiction is a waste of time.” Readers feel everything in a novel is made up and therefor somehow untrue and unworthy.
What they may not realize is that fiction writers spend much of their time researching and not only for historical fiction. Most recently I’ve been in touch with two police officers to get the details for issuing speeding violation tickets correctly (also for handling a bomb threat in a school), a hospital doctor and retired E.R. nurse to find out how best to perform an emergency tracheotomy, a couple of avionics experts and pilots to properly recount the details of a bush plane crash. I interviewed a Canadian mom of two chosen daughters and an (East) Indian friend over buffet Indian food to better understand the culture of the transplanted teen for my newest book Best Friends Through Eternity coming out February.
Honestly, the bizarre details in any story are probably researched true facts. We stick to the believable when we invent story bits.
If I want to learn something, I’d be more inclined to read a novel set in the period or with the themes or subject matter I want to learn about. If I’m travelling to a place I often email the local librarians to ask for novels set in their area. I need a narrative story for me to really live and thereby remember details.
Research shows us that we can learn empathy from reading novels; we can also relax, our blood pressure levels improve more reading than performing yoga. If you can read while patting a dog or cat, your Zen will improve even more. How do I know?
Research I did for a book called Dog on Trial.
Read fiction for fun but you will learn a lot.